May 15, 2024

Van Hollen Joins Butler, Colleagues in Call For Delta Airlines to Remain Neutral in Union Organizing Campaigns

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senator Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) and 23 of their Senate colleagues in signing a letter to the CEO of Delta Airlines, Ed Bastian, urging the airline to adopt a neutrality agreement regarding its employees’ efforts to form a union. The letter expresses support for the 55,000 Delta employees who are attempting to form a union and raises concerns that Delta is employing unfair tactics, such as threats and anti-union materials, to dissuade workers from unionizing. The 600,000-member International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), North America’s largest air transport labor union, is currently organizing Delta ramp, cargo, and tower workers. The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) is signing up flight attendants, and the Teamsters are supporting technicians and related crafts.

In addition to Senator Butler, the letter is co-signed by Senators: Baldwin (D-Wis.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Brown (D-Ohio), Cardin (D-Md.), Casey (D-Pa.) Duckworth (D-Ill.), Fetterman (D-Pa.), Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Hirono (D- Hawai'i), Kaine (D-Va.), Luján (D-N.M.), Markey (D-Mass.), Menendez (D-N.J.), Merkley (D-Ore.), Murphy (D-Conn.), Padilla (D-Calif.), Peters (D-Mich.), Sanders (I-Vt.), Schatz (D- Hawai'i), Stabenow (D-Mich.), Warren (D-Mass.), Welch (D-Vt.), and Wyden (D-Ore.).

“All workers should have a free and fair choice to join a union, as is required by law,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Delta CEO Ed Bastian. “We strongly urge you to adopt a neutrality agreement with regards to any efforts by your employees to unionize and to commit to negotiating in good faith if your employees do choose to form a union.”

The U.S. Senate support follows a bipartisan group of more than 150 members of the U.S. House, led by the House Labor Caucus.

“The IAM is eternally grateful to Sen. Butler and every U.S. Senator who are championing the rights of Delta Air Lines workers,” said IAM International President Brian Bryant. “Delta workers are being subject to an extremely hostile work environment as they exercise their right to form and join a union. It’s past time for Ed Bastian and Delta leadership to do the right thing and allow their workers to make their own decision on unionization free from harassment and intimidation.”

Unionized Delta pilots recently endorsed the joint IAM, AFA-CWA, and Teamsters campaign to organize Delta workers. 

“Delta is receiving a message loud and clear from the U.S. Senate and beyond – ‘cut out the scorched-Earth anti-union campaign now,’” said IAM Air Transport Territory General Vice President Richie Johnsen. “The IAM, our labor coalition and Delta workers will continue to demand that Delta respects its own workforce by allowing them to make their own decision about joining a union.”

Delta Air Lines is the only U.S.-based mainline carrier where a union does not represent flight attendants, fleet service, and mechanics – only 20% of Delta workers are unionized. In April, Delta Air Lines strategically increased pay by 5% for nonunion employees, including flight attendants and ground workers.

The full letter can be viewed here and below:

Dear Mr. Bastian:

We are writing regarding the efforts of Delta employees to organize a union and to encourage Delta to respect the voices of your employees, our constituents, by pledging not to interfere in any union organizing activities by adopting a neutrality agreement.

We understand that Delta employees announced a coordinated campaign to organize a union in November 2022, including Delta flight attendants, fleet service workers, and technicians. Unfortunately, our constituents have informed us about Delta’s history of deploying unionbusting tactics, including threatening employees with termination of their benefits, distributing anti-union literature, and hosting an anti-union website. These retaliatory actions are hostile to workers’ rights, and we urge you to commit to implementing a neutrality agreement with regard to these union organizing efforts.

A neutrality agreement simply consists of an employer agreeing not to engage in pre-election activities that influence workers’ freedom to form a union. Your commitment to neutrality would ensure that management does not pressure workers into voting against unionization or delaying the election process. We believe a neutrality agreement is the bare minimum standard that Delta should meet in respecting workers’ rights and to comply with the Railway Labor Act’s directive to not “interfere… influence or coerce” its employees in their choice of representative.

All workers should have the free and fair choice to join a union, as is required by law. We strongly urge you to adopt a neutrality agreement with regards to any efforts by your employees to unionize and to commit to negotiating in good faith if your employees do choose to form a union. Thank you for your time and attention to these important issues.